Prior to my interview with Faye Webster, she had never heard of the "yee-haw agenda." For the past few weeks, she's been traveling across the US on tour with Stella Donnelly. Webster hails from Atlanta where she was raised within a musical family with deep roots in Texas, so her Southern charm is as authentic as it gets. I was hoping that with a background like that she would be able to weigh in on all the hoopla, but she's been far too busy to keep up with what's trending online.
"Personally, I feel like [Atlanta] is a very good city to grow up in because it's so diverse," she says over the phone. "When I started playing music I was really into the old Western bands that my mom liked. I think growing up in Atlanta and being exposed to all these different kinds of people is where I've taken things from and is what made my music turn out the way it is."
As a kid, Webster developed an immediate fondness for Asleep at the Wheel, a western country swing band from Austin that introduced her to the beauty of the pedal steel. It wasn't until high school that her taste expanded to hip-hop and rap though. She recalls listening to the Awful Records acts religiously and buying prints from their photographer Eat Humans early on. Personally reaching out to the rapper and producer Ethereal, a key member of the collective, would prove to be her full access ticket into their world, and before she knew it she found herself signed to the label.
During that transition, Father had also recruited the R&B duo Danger Incorporated into the group. Webster points out how their additions to the collective show how Awful Records is branching out and organically fostering an eclectic space. Webster is making niche music in a stereotypically urban scene at a time where more artists across the board are pushing for genre fluidity by straddling the sonic barriers that confine them into singular categories. When asked about describing her sound, she settles on Americana while rambling on about how none of the genres that writers have pinned down on her are more accurate than the other. The twang of folk and bluegrass dominates the frame of Webster's work, but the subtle presence of R&B and hip-hop serves as a complementary component rather than a contradictory factor.
In many ways, Webster says that her forthcoming project, Atlanta Millionaires Club, is an extension of her 2017 self-titled album that digs even deeper into her psyche. From front to back, there's that familiar sense of longing and lonesomeness soaked in the foundation of the tracks. The concept of being alone doesn't appeal to everyone, but the manner in which Webster softly sings about it on dreamy tunes like "Hurts Me Too" and "Jonny" is strangely comforting. "I should get out more," she unconvincingly repeats in the chorus of "Room Temperature" knowing full well that there's not a fraction of motivation to get her to budge an inch.
Webster initially wrote all of the songs for this record in-between leaving Nashville and her undergraduate education at Belmont University behind and returning to her home in Atlanta. In both settings, she suddenly found herself living alone and spending a substantial amount of time in solitude. As a songwriter, Webster tapped into those isolated thoughts that she was experiencing from such a dramatic shift in her personal surroundings.
"I'm kind of a slow writer so these were songs that I had for like a year in my pocket," she explains. "I recorded in Athens so I'd go back home to Atlanta and listen to them, make sure they were how I wanted it to be, and then go back and record again. So that process took a long time but, it sounds exactly how I wanted it to sound so I guess that paid off."
The inclusion of hazy love songs like "Kingston" and "What Used To Be" are suffocating; listening to her tell stories of expired romances feels like trying to catch your breath when the pang of heartbreak hits out of nowhere on a humid afternoon. The mood gradually shifts about halfway through on the upbeat "Come To Atlanta" which is draped in gorgeous layers of instrumental arrangements. "Flowers," her latest collaboration with Father, serves as an homage to Awful Records for kickstarting her career and is without a doubt the hardest track on the record as Webster swerves full speed ahead into the electro-R&B lane.
"There's a lot of songs on Atlanta Millionaires Club that could have been on my self-titled, it's a good segue," she says. "But there's also songs that I would have been too scared to put on my self-titled or that I wouldn't have been comfortable writing and stuff... There's a lot of different songs than normal, but when you listen to it as a whole I think it kind of makes sense."
This is far from Webster's first album roll-out rodeo, but she's been feeling more pressure to push out this particular project on such a large scale. It being so well received thus far has been reassuring though. Aside from that, the 21-year-old has plenty of other things to preoccupy her mind ahead of the big drop like directing more visuals for the next pair of singles and learning how to yo-yo on the level of Zion Wilson Chambers.
"I always want people to listen to my music and not just like it because it's what they think a good song is, but actually listen to it," she adds. "Like listen listen to it."
'Atlanta Millionaires Club' is out on May 24 via Secretly Canadian. Pre-order it here.